Lok Sabha Clears Bill to Criminalise Instant Triple Talaq after Oppn Walkout, Rajya Sabha Hurdle Ahead
The clause in the bill that criminalises the practice with a jail term of up to three years for the husband was passed by a division of 302 in favour and 78 against.
New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Thursday gave its nod to a bill which seeks to penalise the practice of instant triple talaq by a voice vote. Several amendments to the legislation, moved by the Opposition, were defeated, with the government asserting that the law was required as hundreds of such cases have come to the fore despite Supreme Court striking down the practice.
A move by the Opposition to stall the bill at the time of its consideration was rejected by a division vote of 303 for and 82 against.
The clause in the bill that criminalises the practice with a jail term of up to three years for the husband was passed by a division of 302 votes in favour and 78 against. Under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, divorcing through instant triple talaq will be illegal, void and would attract a jail term of three years for the husband.
The bill was passed by voice vote amidst walkout by the Congress, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and DMK among others. The bill was passed by the 16th Lok Sabha but could not cross the Rajya Sabha hurdle.
Moving the bill, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the legislation was a must for gender equality and justice as in spite of an August 2017 Supreme Court verdict striking down the practice, women are being divorced by 'talaq-e-biddat'. He said that since January 2017, 574 such cases have been reported by the media.
"When Hindus and Muslims are jailed under dowry law or the Domestic Violence Act, no one objects. What is the objection in penalising the practice," Prasad asked.
On why the NDA government was coming out with a bill concerning Muslim women, the minister said it was because the practice is prevalent in the Muslim community and nowhere else.
Quoting a commentary by Amir Ali, Prasad said that even Prophet Mohammad was very much opposed to this practice and had on an occasion asked his follower to take back his wife. He regretted that despite the explicit opposition to the practice of instant triple talaq in Islamic texts, "the House has to discuss it for the third time".
Prasad said that the Congress could have banned this practice in 1986 at the time of Shahbano controversy but did not do so because of vote bank politics. "Triple talaq is regulated in 20 countries. When it can change in countries following sharia law, why can't in a secular country," he questioned.
Three ordinances have so far been promulgated as a similar bill moved by the previous government could not get parliamentary nod. A fresh bill was introduced by the new government in June during the ongoing Parliament session.
Prasad said to allay fears that the proposed law could be misused, the government has included certain safeguards in it, such as adding a provision of bail for the accused before trial.
While the bill makes triple talaq a "non-bailable" offence, an accused can approach a magistrate even before trial to seek bail. In a non-bailable offence, bail cannot be granted by police at the police station itself. A provision has been added to allow the magistrate to grant bail "after hearing the wife", the minister said.
Opposition up in arms in House
The Opposition, however, was not convinced and claimed that the bill was against criminal jurisprudence and was politically motivated. The Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Janata Dal (United) also staged a walkout. The latter is an ally of the BJP in Bihar.
Rajiv Ranjan Singh, a member of the Janata Dal (United) that is the BJP's coalition partner in Bihar, said the government should not waste time on such bills. He raised several objections to the bill, one of them being the burden of proof, asking, "If a man said it to his wife, when the case goes to court and the man denies having said it, how will you prove it?"
This was also one of the issues raised by AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. "You will put the burden of proof on the wife. Who from the husband's side of the family is going to come and testify against him in court?" he asked.
Owaisi listed several other objections to the bill, which he described as "anti-women". "You will jail the husband without telling us how will he provide maintenance to the wife. Also this woman will be bound to this man till he serves his three-year-long sentence. Why should a woman spend three years of her life waiting for a convicted man to get out of jail? This law is against criminal jurisprudence," he said.
Bahujan Samaj Party's Danish Ali criticised the government's intention of turning a civil offence, as prescribed by Supreme Court, into a criminal offence. "By turning the offence into a criminal offence, you close the window of opportunity for the man to reconcile or negotiate with his former wife and provide her maintenance," Ali said.
Congress party's Gaurav Gogoi attacked the government for proposing a criminal offence under the bill. "You keep saying that 22 Islamic countries have banned Talaq-e-Biddat, so why shouldn't we? It's a fair argument, but could you also tell us which of them have made giving triple talaq a criminal offence? None, except Bangladesh," he said.
Gogoi claimed that the government's intention by introducing such a bill was to "demonise and penalise muslim men". He added that the government should take views of organisations like the Muslim Personal Law Board in account and "shape the bill more in accordance with the constitution".
Telugu Desam Party's Jayadev Galla said, "There are more Hindu and Christian women who have been abandoned by their husbands than there are Muslim women. Only 10% Muslim women in the country have been abandoned. If you want justice for the women, why not the Christian or the Hindu women?"
DMK leader K Kanimozhi also raised this issue while criticising the government's delay in introducing the Women's Reservation Bill and legislation against honour killing and mob lynchings.
NK Premachandran of Revolutionary Socialist Party asked, "Why are you not enforcing imprisonment for divorce in the Hindu and Christian communities? Why alone in Muslim community? This is discrimination against Muslim community."
The Congress demanded that the bill be sent to the Standing Committee for review, saying it targets Muslim community of the country. Participating in the discussion on the bill, the party's Mohammad Jawed said the intent of the government is not clean and it wants to sideline the Muslim community of this country.
"I request the minister to send the bill to the Standing Committee for review and think of laws for separated women of all communities and not only Muslims," he said, adding that a higher number of Hindu women are being divorced as compared to Muslim women. Jawed alleged this law is being formulated to jail Muslim men.
(With inputs from agencies)
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